ISLAMABAD - In a major development, the European Union has lifted the ban on Pakistan's fish exports after six years that would go a long way toward increasing the country's exports.

The ban was clamped on Pakistan exports to the EU in April 2007 owing to poor hygienic conditions. Pakistan lost nearly $50 million worth of market every year since.

The European Union has finally agreed to lift the ban from March 12 and two of the Pakistani fishery processing establishments have been allowed to export fish products to Europe. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, exports of fish and fish products increased 3.43 per cent during the first seven months, July–January of the ongoing fiscal year 2012-2013, to $180.208million from $174.231million in the same period last year.

It may be mentioned here that the country's fish exports would have crossed $100million mark by now from $50 million in 2007 if the ban had not been imposed.  The European Commission had decided to recommend to the 27 member states for inclusion of two Pakistani fisheries establishments in the approved list of third country establishments that were authorised to export fish products to the EU.  After due process the names of the two fishing establishments had now been duly notified by the EU. It means that any consignment exported from these two approved establishments after March 12 would be able to enter the EU.

Pakistan's fishery establishments were delisted by the European Commission in 2007 after EU inspectors found systemic enforcement failure and serious deficiencies in the sanitary quality of the fish.

The EC held that re-listing would be done after the relevant stakeholders would demonstrate that effective actions had been implemented to improve the hygiene in the fishery processing establishments.

The Pakistan government has been working with the stakeholders to bring in the desired improvements. The laboratory services of the MFD have been modernised; MFD microbiology and chemical labs have been internationally accredited; hygiene conditions in fishing vessels, landing & auction sites, fish processing plants have been improved; a large number of fishermen's boats have been modified.  Immediately before the de-listing of the Pakistani companies, the country’s export of fish to Europe amounted to $38.72million in 2006, which was 23 per cent of Pakistan's exports of fish to the world.

The reopening of fishery exports to the EU would give a great boost to Pakistan's fishery exports.

The lifting of the ban by the EU is a manifestation of the deepening relationship between Pakistan and the Europe Union. This also demonstrates Pakistan's willingness to abide by the international commitments as well as the capability to meet the stringent international food safety standards.

 Online from Dubai adds: Pakistani exporters can easily double their food exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from a present $500 million to $1 billion because the Gulf country needs all kinds of edibles, ranging from fresh vegetables to meat and frozen food, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UAE Jamil Ahmed Khan said.

Around 30 exhibitors are representing the country at a food exhibition in UAE. Out of these, 23 companies are participating under the banner of the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), which promotes trade and investment for the country. “Last year, our exhibitors got reasonably good orders and that’s why we reached a level of almost $500 million exports to the UAE,” Khan said during his visit to Pakistan’s pavilion at the exhibition.